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What Does Google Duplex Mean for the Future of Customer Service?

By Amanda PetersonAmanda Peterson (Guest)
A hand holding a mobile phone while tracking a map for location

Gone are the days of making appointments yourself. Google’s newest piece of artificial intelligence Duplex will handle it for you. Now instead of sweating over whether you made the booking for your business luncheon at a local restaurant, you can pull up your calendar to confirm that Duplex did it for you.

However, although Duplex simplifies tasks for individuals, what does it mean for customer service? How are businesses going to evolve for this technology? Below, we discuss the ripple effect of Duplex integration.

What is Google Duplex?

Introduced in May of 2018, Google Duplex is an artificial intelligence assistant tool. By speaking to it, users can create appointments without having to call a business themselves. Instead, they speak to Duplex and the device takes this information and makes the appointment for the individual.

For instance, a person will speak to Duplex saying that they want a table at Nobu’s. The system will then ask a series of questions including how many people will be in the party and what time they would like the reservation for. Once Duplex confirms this information with the person, it will place a call to the selected business.

When Duplex calls a business, people have reported it does not sound like a robot. Duplex will notify the person who picks up that it is Google Assistant calling to place a reservation or appointment. It even inserts “ums” and “ahs” to sound more lifelike.

However, if the business does not accept phone calls or advanced reservations, Duplex will notify the user. It also suggests other ways of reserving a spot, such as using OpenTable. But once the location has confirmed the reservation, Duplex sends an email to the user with the booking information.

Part of the thought process behind making Duplex is an AI system that adapts to users, not users who adapt to the system. Rather than having people learn how to speak to Duplex, Google created a system where Duplex learns and adapts to users and how they speak. Duplex is part of Google Assistant, the personal assistant bot available on Google devices. Users can view their bookings and appointments in the Google Assistant calendar. Currently, Duplex is only available on newer Pixel phones, but the company wants to open it up to all of its devices soon.

How Are People & Businesses Using It?

As the previous example shows, Duplex is currently used by people to make reservations and bookings. It alleviates having to make multiple phone calls for some people. While unorganized individuals now have a digital assistant to make appointments. For those looking to have a secondary device that handles the mundane day-to-day tasks, Duplex is part of the solution.

Businesses are also excited about this new assistant. Rather than hiring a person to take care of appointment bookings or sending various emails communicating what a person needs, Duplex fills in the gap. Plus, it reduces the time spent communicating with another person in the business what they need. Instead, individuals are in charge of handling their own appointments.

Duplex’s Effect on Customer Service

A lighted office room with computer monitors on the working table and a man working on his computer

Although customer service call centers have begun utilizing AI-based voice prompts, Duplex changes the game. Now, personnel will need to learn about how to respond to Duplex automated calls. Although they sound human and act like a human, there is still the chance to stump the bot. Customer service agents need to understand that although Google doesn’t officially record calls, they need to treat a Duplex generated call like a normal one.

There is also the ethical question of Google recording Duplex calls. Despite the fact that Google updated Duplex after its initial introduction to include a prompt by the bot identifying itself as Google Assistant, there are still questions of ethicacy. What if a recording was accidentally released? What happens when a reservation cannot be made because a restaurant individual did not properly note it or misunderstood the call?

It’s also another issue for businesses that do not accept phone reservations. Although larger companies can adapt to add phone reservations, smaller businesses may struggle with adding it to their services.

Additionally, businesses need to think about search result rankings and optimization. When a person speaks a generic term like restaurant reservation, Google pulls up only three recommended places based on a person’s location. These results may lead to many companies competing for those three rankings in search. Since companies are already optimizing themselves for voice searches, they should also be considering optimizing themselves for Duplex factors, like location and offerings.

Finally, if people can make reservations via AI-based technology, what’s to stop businesses from using this technology to make their own cold calls? Will people soon be having their assistant bots speaking to business bots?

What’s Next for this Technology?

There’s a lot in store for Google Duplex. From simply making reservations and appointments, this technology will expand into other sectors of service in the future.

Using this technology for customer service is one place for consideration. Replacing prompts such as dial 1 for customer service, dial 2 for billing/accounts with a voice bot asking specific questions, could render call centers obsolete. Rather than sitting on hold for an hour or trying to remember a password, people will have their Duplex systems call a business, and that business will likely have a bot of their own to respond.

Since AI-based devices are always learning, at some point they may learn all the nuances of natural language. When checking a bank balance, some people use a phrase like “check my cash balance,” while others will state “check my account statement.”

Think of the opportunities there when AI systems understand and categorize different phrases and meanings. No longer will a call placed to a company for help to start off as a machine asking questions and then transferring to a real-life person. Instead, the machine will handle the entire conversation.

Another path to consider is the integration of Duplex into other voice-activated technology. Right now, Duplex only works with Google Assistant. But if it worked with devices like Amazon’s Alexa, the conversational bot space would undergo a major change. Current technology like Apple’s Siri can remind people to do tasks, but incorporating Duplex with its booking technology would add another layer of sophistication.

Will businesses face transactions that are solely done by robots? Could we reach a point where all a human has to do is speak to one device that would run their whole day? There’s an opportunity for Duplex to handle a broad range of appointments. Instead of providing information about a restaurant booking, there may come a time when all a person needs to do is say “make a hair appointment for next Monday.” Duplex will handle finding a hairdresser nearby based on search results, reviews, and costs.

It’s worth thinking about how Duplex will make appointments during the off-hours of businesses. The 24/7 abilities of the device can allow it to make bookings, even when the business it’s contacting is not open. Right now, Duplex cannot make appointments with an answering machine, but in the future, it may be able to reach a business regardless of its hours of operation.

Part of the Duplex effect is how business websites will optimize themselves for search. Already, companies are adding in terms for voice search queries. What terms will Duplex need to know? How will a business rank for the various ways people refer to them? Can a company manage to always be ranking in the three businesses Duplex brings up when people search a generic term?

Another point of consideration is when Duplex will make appointments digitally. Even though filling out a form online is relatively easy, will Duplex be able to make these kinds of appointments as well?

There are a variety of ways that Duplex could change in the future. For customer service management, Duplex stands to become a useful tool, but also another technology to optimize for.

Closing Remarks

Although Google Duplex is not available to everyone yet, people are already excited about it. The assistant that makes appointments for people is another example of how artificial intelligence is simplifying people’s lives.

Once people begin to use it in everyday life, it is worth considering for customer service professionals. Whether it’s updating systems to handle Duplex generated calls or adding in a phone number to a business, the system has a larger effect on businesses.

But looking into the future, there are many questions left unanswered. How people and businesses use it in the future will have larger effects. It could replace human customer service departments. It could lead to bot to bot conversations where people just type in information and let the AI devices handle it.

For now though, Duplex is a system that looks to assist people in everyday tasks. Yet in the future, businesses may profit by this technology as well.

Author’s Bio:

Contributor to Enlightened Digital and software engineer from the one, the only New York City. My hobbies include snuggling with my Puggle, Hendrix while Netflix binging, and finding the best record store in the city.

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